The Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) claimed the sanctions, imposed on Iraq following its invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, had caused the deaths of more than 1.5 million Iraqis, including more than 600,000 children. The group created a task force at its annual convention on June 15 and said it would work with other organizations to demand the immediate lifting of the West's embargo against Iraq.
As part of the campaign, hundreds of children were to march to the United
Nations on July 1 to present to the Security Council petitions and messages
from the planned teach-ins and vigils the week of June 26.
Events were planned across the United States, Europe, Japan, South Africa, Lebanon and Australia.
``The sanctions policy... is creating an artificial famine, a silent slaughter. Its intent is to destroy an entire population,'' said Sara Flounders, co-coordinator of the International Action Center and one of the people who compiled a U.N. report last year on the suffering caused by the sanctions. Flounder said more than 4,500 children under the age of five were dying every month in Iraq due to lack of medicines and food, as well as a result of drinking contaminated water.
``Sanctions are not a replacement for military action; they are part of it,'' she said.
Destruction of Iraqi water treatment and sewage plants during the Gulf War, and the subsequent blocking of efforts to rebuild, amounted to ``biological warfare against civilian people,'' said Kathy Kelly, who helped found Voices in the Wilderness, a campaign to end the sanctions and bring medical supplies to Iraq. Members of the group who have traveled to Iraq face 12-year prison sentences and fines of more than $1 million for breaking the U.N. embargo.
The United Nations last month estimated that in Kurdish areas of the north 19.3 percent of chldren under five were malnourished, of which 26 percent were chronically malnourished and four percent were acutely malnourished.
Dr. Adil Al-Humadi, an Iraqi native and professor of surgery at State University of New York in Buffalo, NY, said he had traveled to Iraq and opened a small clinic there. He said he was shocked at the conditions in hospitals and said children were dying for lack of medicines like penicillin. He also cited anecdotal evidence of increased cancer rates after the Gulf War, something U.S. civil rights groups and veterans groups have linked to use of weapons employing depleted uranium.
U.N. reports have estimated that more than 500 tons of highly toxic and radioactive depleted uranium were fired into the environment during the war, potentially causing immune system diseases, cancers, congenital deformities and leukemia.